Human trafficking hits a red light

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Esther Madikane (left) leader of The Domino Foundation’s Red Light programme and Carli Petit of Anthem Church’s recovery centre flanking an ‘Anonymous’ human-trafficking survivor

The recent sex trade secret about a Durban North woman Siam Lee caught a lot of people by surprise. However, it also opened up a conversation with regards to prostitution and human trafficking.

Even though the scale of human trafficking in South Africa is hard to quantify, it is still a cause for concern.

In his letter to the national newspaper recently, Rowan Phillips, marketing manager at the Domino Foundation said that there is a critical need for far greater networking between organisations whose vision is to support survivors of exploitation and human-trafficking and between government and those organisations.

“Many of the sex workers need to deal with addiction issues. Working with Anthem Recovery, Red Light Programme, a human trafficking initiative utilises restoration programmes which include individual and group therapy to restore survivors to wholeness, hope and dignity.

“This all takes place in a safe, caring environment where physical, emotional and spiritual support is provided. We gladly add our voice to call for both national and local government to develop policy to assist in the support of this marginalised population, as well as of programmes and organisations engaging with prostitution and human-trafficking-related issues,” Phillips said.

Human trafficking and prostitution goes hand in hand as most victims of human trafficking are turned into sex slaves operating in plush brothels and others turning tricks on the streets.
Considered the modern day form of slavery, human trafficking comes in many different forms: the sex trade, organ-trafficking and illegal debt bondage. In South Africa, child-headed households, single parent households and the realities of living under the ever-rising poverty line mean that many vulnerable women, men and children are turning to cheap labour and sex work for survival.

That is where the Domino Foundation’s Red Light Programme fits in through prevention and awareness: where they do presentations to schools, corporates, interest groups and churches.

“These activities enable individuals to learn more and be aware of the atrocities of human -trafficking, how to identify suspicious activity and the correct communication channels for reporting such activities,” said Esther Madikane who heads up the programme.

Red light also sees exploited human-trafficked individuals restored to hope and dignity. The programme reaches out to sex workers and vulnerable groups in areas of high prostitution and exploitation. “Through the Night Lights Initiative, our desire is to love and build sustainable relationships with the ladies and identify and assist sex-trafficking victims. Vulnerable and exploited individuals are identified and assessed and are referred into our restoration programme or to partner organisations as required,” Madikwane said.

By reaching out into areas of high prostitution and exploitation, Red Light builds sustainable relationships with victims, helping to restore their identity. “Our dream is to release survivors into economic freedom and be reintegrated into society. We work through tailor-made courses to allow beneficiaries to leave the programme with the skills, knowledge, practical tools and community support to follow sustainable employment opportunities.”

By joining The Domino Foundation, an umbrella non-profit organisation that has a range of community social justice programmes, Red Light in partnership with other organisations is able significantly to tackle some of the many social ills that lead to individuals from being exploited in the first place.

They are currently under guidance of the Human-Trafficking, Harmful Traditional Practices, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothel Task Team (HHPPB). The Domino Foundation Red Light programme welcomes any partnerships in the fight against human trafficking and rehabilitation of human trafficking and sex trade victims. For more information contact and ways to get involved visit


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